For the Love of L’oeuf: Adventures in Eggcellence

Corwin Brooke with Mister Drake, the only Cayuga in the bunch who’ll tolerate man-handling. (Photo by Werner Elmker)

My corner of Iowa is home to such an interesting mix of people. Take my plumber-turned-paddlesports-buddy Corwin, a do-it-his-way homesteader who keeps me entertained with stories of his various adventures in self-reliance.

On the meager plot of land he rents and lives on, he’s cultivated his own little piece of heaven in a fenced-in orchard boasting apple, Iowa peach, and goumi berry trees; burgeoning summertime crops of peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, and amaranth in the sunnier areas; and a veritable zoo of egg-laying feathereds. Approaching three years old now is his self-hatched brace of giant Cayuga ducks. These bashful black birds—with the exception of Mister Drake, who enjoys exercising his superiority by nipping at Corwin’s pant legs—are treated to their own swimming tubs and homegrown water-hyacinth snacks in the summertime, and are sheltered inside a raccoon-proof geodesic dome overnight and during the coldest days of winter.

A few feet away, tucked inside a tiny solar-heated greenhouse, home to an all-season crop of fresh greens and an experimental papaya tree, abides a covey of Coturnix quail. The man is obsessed. I think he might be part bird.

Homegrown eggs have been a staple of his diet for a few years now, and tending to the ducks and quail is a staple of his routine, so it’s only natural that many of our conversations meander into bird territory: the special tool required to snip the tip off a quail egg for easiest access to the good stuff, the colored shells his ducks have been laying lately, or which of his ducks are suddenly speckled. I guess there’s only so much pigment in a bird. When a bit of that melanin pigment gets deposited on a Cayuga egg shell, some of those dark duck feathers be turnin’ white! Nature is so weird.

Eggs. They’re not just for Easter. (Photo by Holly Spangler,

As much as I’d like to think I could adapt to unusual food sources come the apocalypse, when given the chance to experiment with my friend’s oeufs de canard, I discovered very swiftly that I’m a non-adventurous egg eater. After they stared at me from the front rack of the fridge for a good two weeks, I reluctantly fried up one of the gifted duck eggs to eat with toast, and although it tasted like an egg—a little more rubbery, and a little richer perhaps—I could barely choke it down. Mostly a psychological issue, I’d say, but unless future duck eggs get stirred inconspicuously into cookie batter or the like, I gotta stick to the chick.

Corwin, on the other hand, is obviously less squeamish. He’ll eat just about anything. Truly, the guy has got a stomach that’s tough as nails—he won’t think twice about consuming an egg salad that’s been sitting in a hot car for hours, and he wears it as a badge of honor that he’s been known to easily digest meals that everyone else got sick off of. Ooof!! But back to l’oeuf.

Eggy Pie, Please

Eggs, in my family, have been saving the day lately.

When my siblings, parents, and seven nieces and nephews get together—the younger set are picky eaters to the last—the only dish we can all seem to agree on lately is quiche. In fact, the kids ask for it. Kale, tomato, and onion; sausage, red pepper, and broccoli. Atop buttery crusts and blended with whatever cheese we have on hand, wedges of quiche disappear swiftly from the cobbled together, 14-seat dinner table. Savory slices are complemented to perfection by a zesty salad of greens—which the kids, of course, don’t touch.

The Yoke’s on Her

Other than pictures of kittens, Grandma Wormley loved eggs more than almost anything else on the planet. My mother is still a bit sour that Grandma’s doctor convinced her to severely ration her egg intake during the “cholesterol” scare of the 1980s and ’90s. Helen Wormley coveted and savored the single soft-boiled egg she was allowed on toast twice a week.

Recent studies show that an egg a day is a perfectly fine choice for the average adult, even the older ones, offering lean protein, “good” not “bad” cholesterol, and more than a dozen quintessential nutrients, including iron, omega-3, folate, and vitamin D. It makes perfect sense that an egg would be so nutrient dense; a whole egg contains all the building blocks needed to turn a single cell into an entire bird. Chew on that!

The benefits of regular egg eating have also been shown to include reduced risk of degenerative vision issues and stroke. Grandma had several of the latter, confound it. If only she’d been allowed more eggs!?

Mom reminds me: Grandma loved eggs so much that in her final years, when the nursing home kitchen, for liability reasons, refused to serve her (or anyone else) eggs with runny yokes, Mom bought Grandma an electric skillet to stash in her room and, upon every visit, would bring a pat of butter and a couple eggs to fry up for Grandma on the sly. She could have her yokes as soft as she wanted, as long as she kept the door shut.

Poached Comfort

Do you remember as a child relishing the world just a little bit more on the cusp of getting over the stomach flu? To keep our fluids up, we kids would be allowed to sip on a teensy-tiny cup of 7UP, doctor’s orders, a treat otherwise only enjoyed on pizza night once a season when our report cards came back with enough As.

And when Mom would finally allow the reintroduction of a few solid foods, my God, didn’t they taste like heaven? A little bowl of steaming hot Cream of Rice cereal was intensely satisfying. A few saltines were to die for. Dry toast wasn’t much to get excited about, but that poached egg Mom painstakingly made to serve on top? Ecstasy itself. Oh, to be not quite sick again.

Sourcing a Decent Dozen

Do I love that so many eggs at the grocery store come from chickens raised in cages? No. And do I love that my state hosts far more than its fair share of confined animal feeding operations, many of which are packed with chickens? No. It’s a conundrum to say the least. But as an egg eater, I do my best to buy my dozen at the farmers market; better yet, from a friend with her own chickens; or at the very least, in grocery-store cartons claiming their contents to be sourced from “organic, cage-free, cuddled daily” hens.

Two Eggs and a Banana Walk Into a Bar

In closing, I’d like to offer a recipe for a supremely tasty, nutritious, and easy-to-make breakfast: the Banana-Egg Pancake—a great choice when you realize your scone-to-other-food-group ratio is a little lopsided and the fleshy muffin puff ballooning over your waistband is proof.

Protein-rich and lightly sweet, this grain-free, crêpe-like cake is a cinch to make and a joy to eat. And, bonus, this eggcellent recipe for one makes use of even the most questionable bananas you’ve got lying around.

Banana Egg Pancake: so easy, so good!

Banana Egg Pancake

1 small banana
2 eggs
Butter or oil

1) In a bowl, mash up 1 small banana (with a fork is fine), the smoother the better. 2) Whisk 2 eggs (with said fork), and mix thoroughly with the banana paste. 3) Pour into a pan and fry on medium-low heat with a little butter or oil until both sides are golden brown.

You can skew it to the sweeter side with some maple syrup, or lean it a little salty with … salt. Both are nice together, I find.

And while I may be a chicken when it comes to strange eggs, I am fearless when it comes to herbs and spices. Cinnamon’s a winner on a banana-egg pancake, but I’d also eat it with dusting of nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom. Lavender, cumin, or cayenne. I would eat it in a box, I would eat it with a fox. I would eat it in a boat, I would eat it with a goat.*

Try one. Savor it on a plate with fresh berries, or roll it up like a cigar and enjoy it perfectly plain as you dash out the door to find your next delightful dozen.


*A shout-out to Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.

Meredith Siemsen

Meredith, an Iowa native, was baffled when she earned her high school's writing award in 1993. It wasn't until twenty years later that she discovered she actually enjoyed wordcraft. (Too bad she's still a two-fingered typist.) Thanks for reading, friends!